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Press Release // Immigration and Asylum

LIRS Condemns DHS Proposal to Limit Work Authorization for Asylum Seekers

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LIRS Staff

November 13, 2019

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Condemns dhs rule proposal to limit work authorization for asylum seekers

Contact: Tim Young | | 443-257-6310

Baltimore, MD – On November 14, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a rule proposal in the Federal Register that will make it much more difficult for asylum seekers to apply for and obtain employment authorization in the United States.

“These policy changes would be devastating to asylum seekers in this country,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President & CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS). “Without work permits, they will not have the independence to feed their families, to buy medicine for their children, or to provide the most basic necessities for themselves and their loved ones while they await their due process.”

Under the new proposal, DHS would be able to deny employment authorization to asylum seekers who did not cross the border at an authorized port of entry—making thousands of those fleeing violence and persecution at our southern border ineligible to work. The proposed policy would also extend the waiting period to apply for employment authorization to 365 days from the date of application filing, double the current wait period of 150 days, leaving asylum seekers unable to work for a full year.

“With these regulations, work permits may become effectively nonexistent for asylum seekers,” said O’Mara Vignarajah. “The new policies would deny them the ability to fully integrate into American society, forcing them into the shadows to seek work to support themselves and their families. Not only would the proposed changes be destructive to the American economy, they are likely to result in a loss of millions of local, state, and federal tax dollars.”

Other provisions of the proposed policy include automatic denial of work authorization to any asylum seeker with a felony conviction, pending drug or other “public safety” charges, or “serious non-political crime” outside of the United States; a two-year limit on all employment authorizations; the removal of a requirement that ensures asylum seekers are notified within 30 days if their application is incomplete; and mandatory fingerprinting and other biometric collections to be paid for by the applicants – an unprecedented fee for asylum seekers that comes just days after the administration’s decision to charge an asylum application fee, making the U.S. just one of four countries to do so.

“This proposal is just another in a long line of the Administration’s policy changes designed to make it clear that those fleeing violence and persecution are not welcome here,” said O’Mara Vignarajah. “To deny asylum seekers the dignity of work is not just cruel, it’s irresponsible. These people have been through hardships we can’t even imagine, but they want to work. They want to be productive members of our society. The least we can do is give them that chance.”

Founded in 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is one of the largest immigration and refugee resettlement agencies in the United States. LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership working with and advocating for refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations. Through 80 years of service and advocacy, LIRS has helped over 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America. 

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